In the early afternoon of April 9th, 1865 General Robert E. Lee and Colonel Charles Marshall arrived at the McLean House on horseback. Wilmer McLean was standing on the front porch awaiting the arrival of the two Confederate officers. McLean extended his greetings to the two and invited them into his parlor while awaiting the arrival of other guests.
The McLean house
Appomattox Court House
In the mid-afternoon around 1:30 pm, a group of Union officers arrived on horseback. The group included Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, Major General P. H. Sheridan, Major General E. O. C. Ord, Major General Wesley Merritt, Major General George Armstrong Custer, and Captain Robert Todd Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln among others.
General Grant and several of the Union officers entered the parlor where General Lee was waiting. For the next hour and a half, General Lee and General Grant discussed and agreed on the terms of surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, which, for all practical purposes, ended the long, bloody war.
McLean, a retired Major in the Virginia militia, was too old to be conscripted when the Civil War began. For the majority of the war, he was a merchant primarily dealing in the buying and selling of sugar, but, at the outset of the war in 1861, he was a farmer living in northern Virginia with his family.
The war struck close to home early on. McLean moved his family from northern to central Virginia out of concern for their safety, eventually settling in their home at Appomattox Court House. The First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) took place on Wilmer McLean’s farm on July 21st, 1861, and inspired the move. So, in a most unusual twist of fate, the Civil War started in McLean’s backyard in 1861 and ended in his parlor in 1865.
(Edited by Hannah Holbert, 2023)